The Dish: Real Urban Barbecue

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Will Davis

The Dish is a multimedia food review segment co-produced by Will Davis and Carter Horan. Each week, they will travel to a North Shore restaurant to try, discuss, and evaluate the eats on in and around Lake Forest.

Real Urban Barbecue, colloquially known as RUB, has become a staple restaurant in the Chicagoland area. RUB is one of a few traditional barbecue joints on the North Shore. The rumor is true that on a very busy day they may run out of food because they smoke just enough BBQ to keep it fresh. Some of Real Urban Barbecue’s most popular dishes are their pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, which you can match with delicious sides like baked beans, mac and cheese, and their homemade sweet potato souffle. Real Urban Barbecue has four locations on the North Shore: Skokie, Oak Brook, Vernon Hills, and Highland Park. A short trip for Lake Forest residents could be worth the travel for real BBQ lovers. Yelp reviews also speak highly of the unmatched quality of meat, along with their often imitated, never duplicated true southern style.  RUB strives to match excellent food with great hospitality in order to please customers. Thus, we cruised south on Sheridan Rd. to Real Urban Barbecue to see if the high praise met our expectations.

Affordability: 5/10

The pricing of RUB was one of the greatest downfalls we experienced. Due to their constant output of fresh meat and ingredients on a daily basis, the prices were jacked way up. Most high school students would probably turn away from a meal that costs you over 10 dollars. Unfortunately, the reality is that with high quality food comes a high price tag. In order to help create a more affordable option at RUB, we would suggest the idea of creating combo meals. The only real problem or issue we had with RUB is the reality that most high school students don’t really have the money to afford lunches or dinners that cost 15-20 shekels. With this in mind, though, we have  come to the understanding that good, high-caliber meat is an expensive luxury and needs to be priced accordingly. So, it was hard to judge the affordability of RUB due to the circumstances we were in. But it lost some points with the total coming in just under 35 bucks for two people.

Environment: 8.5/10

Real Urban Barbecue can be found in downtown Highland Park just south of downtown. It is tucked away in the corner of town near other well-known restaurants such as Walker Bros, Michael’s, and Once Upon a Bagel.  As you approach the ordering window you immediately notice the walls lined with pictures, sculptures, and any other miscellaneous artifact related to Barbecue. Soft country music fills your ears at the perfect volume throughout the restaurant because if you are eating BBQ, you’re probably listening to country, which was a plus for us. The restaurant is kept up nicely with workers rotating tables as you finish your meal. With BBQ being as messy as it can be, RUB impressed us with their clean environment. From the giant menu filled with salads and smoked turkey to the lightning fast wi-fi, Real Urban Barbecue’s environment has it all.

Food Quality: 9/10

By far the greatest upside of Real Urban Barbecue was its quality of food. The sides were absolutely delicious and filled with flavor. The sweet potatoes in the souffle were perfectly matched with gooey marshmallows and crunchy walnuts to create one of the best side dishes we’ve had in some time. In addition, it was very easy to tell the mac and cheese and baked beans were homemade with fresh ingredients. The mac and cheese was very rich and the baked beans had a little spice that made them extraordinarily delectable.  When it came to the fries, they were pretty average, but obviously that is not their marquee side. We thought that the fries were a touch salty but that they had good texture. By far the greatest characteristic of RUB was the quality of the meat, especially the pulled pork and the brisket. When ordering our food, we watched the employees take the meat out of the oven and slice it up right in front of our eyes. The pork was nicely shredded, smoky, and very juicy. The brisket had the perfect amount of fat and was a nice, thick, tender cut of meat. Both of these cuts were complimented by their Kansas City sweet sauce which added both flavor and a unique, do-it-yourself spice to the sandwiches. Lastly, RUB’s wide variety of old school bottled sodas, sweet tea, and also regular sodas were another ammenity that impressed us.

Service: 8.5/10

There is no doubt that we were most surprised by the quick assistance we received during our visit at RUB. Real Urban Barbecue workers operated with diligence and efficiency as they crafted our sides and sandwiches, while maintaining prime quality. At the restaurant, we received a batch of fries that had been sitting for a few minutes and one worker even offered to make us fresh ones. The service was welcoming and they treated us very well. Food preparation was instant as workers cut fresh meat that was stored for the day and cut it right in front of us. Customers can immediately tell that Real Urban Barbecue is a more premium “fast casual” restaurant than most others in the North Shore.  RUB is an outlet that offers savory food with an original southern style if you’re willing to pay the price.

Spear Rating: 3.5 SPEARS (out of 4)